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Trick: Checking how much you know about anything

Suppose you have a physicist holding a doctorate in his field, and beside him an everyday Eddie that knows just as much about physics as any average Joe. You assign both of them the following task: Make a list of all the things you don’t know about physics.

Who’s list do you imagine will be longer?

I believe it’s the physicist’s list, but as you know, that doesn’t mean he actually knows less than everyday Eddie or average Joe. Here’s why:

The more we devote ourselves to any subject, the likelier it is that we discover it’s seemingly unsolvable mysterious. We learn that there are things we do not understand. We are faced with different equally valid explanations that seem mutually exclusive and contradictory.

It has to be so, I think, because it’s unlikely that we are ever able to grasp the entirety of any subject. The missing piece, that we are unable to comprehend at the time, is what connects the two otherwise contradictory pieces. There is every possibility that for every missing piece, one or more pieces might not even seem to belong in the puzzle.

Remember, the puzzle of truth is one we do not know what is supposed to look like. Usually with puzzles you know, because it’s says what it is right there on the box. But with truth, there is no knowing what it’s suppose to be like. Impossible. We are looking, but we can never really know what it is we are looking for, or if we have found it. We can only know if we have not found it. That’s it. Enjoy.

It’s easy to overestimate what we really know about anything. That’s because we’re trying to gauge it directly. Perhaps an indirect measure is more meaningful.

If we wish to get a feeling of how much we understand anything, then perhaps it is better to ask ourselves “What is it that I don’t know about this?”

It might seem backwards, but, the more you don’t know, the more you do know.


Nadeem J. Qureshi